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BREAKING: Derek Chauvin sentenced to 21 years for violating George Floyd’s civil rights

The federal sentence will be served concurrently with a 22 ½-year sentence after Chauvin was found guilty in a state case of second- and third-degree murder, along with second-degree manslaughter.
Image by Shannon Doyle
The Hennepin County Government Center, on Sunday, Feb. 28 during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced in a federal civil rights case Thursday to 21 years in prison for depriving George Floyd of his civil rights in May 2020. 

Chauvin is already serving a 22 ½ year sentence after he was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, in April 2021 in the state’s case against him.

As part of a federal plea agreement, Chauvin will serve both his state and federal sentences concurrently in federal prison, with the time he has already served deducted from the sentence. The New York Times reported this is on the lower end of the standard 20 to 25 years prescribed by sentencing guidelines.

“I really don’t know why you did what you did,” U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson told Chauvin before announcing the sentence. “But to put your knee on another person’s neck until they’re deceased is wrong. And for that, you must be substantially punished.”

Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in May 2020 after he kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd’s murder sparked national outrage and unrest as people called for mass police reform and racial equity.

Chauvin’s federal plea deal, reached last year, also admits his guilt in a 2017 incident where he repeatedly struck 14-year-old John Pope and kneeled on his neck and upper back for about 15 minutes. Pope sued the city of Minneapolis in May.

Before his sentencing, Chauvin gave a brief statement to both Floyd’s and Pope’s families. He did not apologize to either family for his actions.

“To the Pope family, Mr. Pope: I hope you have a good relationship with your mother and also your sister, and I hope that you have the ability to get the best education possible to lead a productive and rewarding life,” Chauvin said to Pope in his statement.

And to Floyd’s children: “I just want to say that I wish them all the best in their life and have excellent guidance in becoming great adults.”

Prosecutors in the case asked Justice Magnuson to sentence Chauvin to 25 years in prison, as they believed a higher sentence would send a clear message to police officers around the country that their role in the criminal justice system is limited and does not involve imposing punishment

Magnuson said he blames Chauvin alone for Floyd’s murder as Chauvin was the senior officer at the scene and ignored questions from one of the other officers about Chauvin’s use of force.

“You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene,” said Magnuson.

Former officer Thomas Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in state court in May and is scheduled for sentencing in September. Former officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng’s trial on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter is scheduled for October.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, asked the court last month to sentence Chauvin to no more than 20 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release, citing “thousands” of letters from across the country he said Chauvin received that, “speaks to his character and qualities as a human being.”

Courteney Ross, Floyd’s girlfriend, wrote the victim impact statement that was read to the court during Thursday’s sentencing hearing. 

“I don’t hate you, Mr. Chauvin,” the statement said. “I’m working on forgiving you because that’s what George Floyd would want me to do.”

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